Non-violence and the narrative of peace

Joseph Dana writes:

On Sunday June 5, hundreds of Palestinians gathered outside the Qalandia checkpoint separating Jerusalem and Ramallah. They were part of an unarmed demonstration marking the anniversary of Israel’s takeover of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, known as Naksa Day.

Simultaneously, thousands of Palestinians descended on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and attempted to mass on the Lebanese border with nothing more than their bodies. As the spring sun beat down on the demonstration, Israel killed 23 demonstrators with live ammunition and injured hundreds.

The Qalandia demonstration, organised by the Ramallah-based March 15 youth movement, was the embodiment of the Arab Spring in Palestine. Demonstrators, inspired by the revolutions sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East, approached the concrete walls of the checkpoint and were met by fully armed Israeli soldiers who, without a moment’s pause, opened fire with teargas and stun grenades. Panic descended on the crowd as people collapsed from the effects of teargas inhalation.

I watched as some Palestinian youth responded to the Israeli incursion by throwing stones at soldiers, who then returned fire using large, aluminium teargas canisters as bullets, in violation of Israeli army rules of conduct. Within an hour, soldiers had taken over Palestinian rooftops around the walled checkpoint and were firing rubber bullets at the unarmed protesters. One Palestinian was hit directly in the face. The Israeli military reported that one border policeman was slightly injured in the demonstration.

Mainstream Israeli and international media argued endlessly, as though in a state of reverie, about whether Palestinian demonstrators who threw rocks should be considered unarmed, non-violent or violent. Absent from the conversation was the fact that Israel is rapidly increasing a programme of military repression against demonstrations in a last-ditch effort to dominate the narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Portraying unarmed Palestinians as violent rioters enabled the press to downplay Israel’s heavy-handed reaction to the demonstrations. This response was largely based on unsubstantiated accounts of demonstrators’ behaviour, most of which came directly from the Israeli military and were completely false.

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4 thoughts on “Non-violence and the narrative of peace

  1. kagiso

    I wish the Palestinians the best in adopting non-violence, I believe it is the best way for them to regain their lands.

    But it does seem that the Palestinians just don’t get the concept that is non-violence.

    Throwing stones is violence.

    The followers of Gandhi and Martin Luther King did not throw stones. They absorbed the violence of their attackers, and by doing so they took the moral high ground, and broke the will of the British and American oppresors as a consequence.

    Throw just one stone and you throw away that moral victory.

    The Israelis understand this. In the second intifada they deliberately used live fire disproportionately to egg the Palestinians into responding. And the Palestinians, in their utter foolishness, always did.

    If the Palestinians can find the moral courage to stop throwing stones at their mass rallies for just a couple of months the whole debate will change.

    The international press will be outraged as the Israelis continue to shoot true pacifists. Ultimately the conscripts of the IDF will also start refusing to shoot true pacifists, very few ordinary people are capable of deliberately killing in cold blood.

    Then the IDF will become reliant on physically moving protesters. Given that there are many more potential Palestinian protesters than Israeli policemen and soldiers, at this point the Palestinians will have won.

    The Palestinians who throw stones probably think they are brave. They are not. They are cowardly. The Indians in the 1940’s and the black Americans in the 1950’s and 60’s were far braver.

    On the day that the Palestinians can be as brave as black Americans, and refuse to throw stones, on that day the Palestinians will gain their freedom, morally first, practically within a year or so.

  2. Paloma

    It is ennoying to read your comments, kagiso, the israeli army kill every day Palestinan youth, with tear canisters and rubber bullets, and other inhuman actions and you dare to say that throwing stones in defence to that israeli barbaric nightmare is violence???!!!
    The palestinian stonethrowers are non violent! They never killed an israeli soldier, but the israeli soldiers killed thousends of young stonethrowers! Please keep down your foolish reflexion.

  3. Norman

    I agree with you Paloma, it almost reads as though Kagiso is either an Israeli or a troll. There isn’t any rational logic to what is happening when the Israelis use live ammunition on unarmed civilians, even if the youngsters do throw rocks. Just how far can the rocks be thrown versus a bullet? It’s the Israelis who need to practice restraint. Of course, with the leadership in place in Israel today, the chances are dim that might happen.

  4. Colm O' Toole

    Personally I’m off the Marwan Barghouti school of thought.

    “And while I, and the Fatah movement to which I belong, strongly oppose attacks and the targeting of civilians inside Israel, our future neighbor, I reserve the right to protect myself, to resist the Israeli occupation of my country and to fight for my freedom”

    Chapter 1 Article 1 Part 2 of the UN Charter gives all people the right to self determination, which they define as “a people have the right to resist, with force if necessary, an alien or foreign occupier”.

    So in this view Palestinians can use whatever violence is necessary against military targets. On the issue of violence against settlers it is more blurry since the UN charter allows for violence against a “foreign occupier” which the settlers are but also in the UN laws of war forbids the killing of civilians (which alot of settler are). Then its also blurred some more by the fact Israel has the draft so technically most settlers are former military soldiers. So I think violence against settlers is certainly legally questionable.

    All this leaves the choice of which is the most effective path to take. Non-Violence or Armed Resistance while both forms is permitted. Personally I think a third intifada that is non-violent will work best at diplomatically isolating Israel. (After all diplomatic isolation is what brought down South Africa not the ANC’s violence).

    But again I’m not going to condemn Palestinians for using violence if they think that is the best tool against occupation just like I wouldn’t condemn George Washington for using violence against the British occupation or France against the Nazi occupation. All 3 are morally and legally sound.

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